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Zenfolio vs ExposureManager

A big part of what makes a website designed to sell a product successful is whether that website stirs up a feeling of trust for the merchant and respect for the product. While ExposureManager is indeed completely customizable , making these custom changes requires heavy knowledge of HTML, CSS, and access to ExposureManager template documentation that isn’t available. So, while the potential is certainly there, the average visitor to an ExposureManager hosted gallery will find mediocre style and a web 1.0 feel. Zenfolio, on the other hand, offers a stunning visual experience, and a large selection of themes and customizations to let each user choose what best suits the work being presented. As Ian pointed out, this makes the service more valuable to the photographer right out of the box. But looks aren’t everything.

So which service is better suited to me? The short version: Zenfolio. Read on for the full report.

(If you decide to use Zenfolio, drop in Referral Code CVY-6UZ-T5M and you’ll save $5 and I will too)

Out of the box look. Zenfolio. As mentioned above.

Ease of use for Customers. Zenfolio.

Ease of use for Photographers. Zenfolio.

Suitable as more than just a print gallery. Zenfolio. With all of it’s advanced features, Zenfolio can quite easily be the ONLY service you’ll need for hosting your portfolio, your fine art images, custom work, portrature, and event photography. It’s feature set puts it up there with Flickr yet it still remains professional and utterly customizable to suit the photographer.

Templating. ExposureManager. The above mentioned templating feature. This allows for the ultimate in customization. Zenfolio claims this is coming soon to their service offering.

Monthly Cost. ExposureManager – kinda. Exposure manager runs $99.95/yr for their unlimited account. This is a mere $0.05 cheaper than Zenfolio and is essentially equal. However, ExposureManager does offer a $64.95/yr account with a 1GB storage limit. While Zenfolio has other product offering too, they do not allow for profits to be made on print sales and are therefore outside of the scope of this review. So, if you’re willing to deal with a 1GB storage limit, ExposureManager is cheaper. Otherwise, the cost is the same.

Commission. Zenfolio w/ Exceptions. ExposureManager charges 10% commission on the purchase price. Zenfolio charges 12% on profits only. For self-fulfillment orders, ExposureManager still charges 10% commission, however, ZenFolio drops the rate to 6% and still only charges commission on profit. If you do a lot of self-fulfillment, or if your profits are fairly low, ZenFolio will probably be significantly less expensive (but see the downside below on self-fulfillment). [Thanks to Phototouille for pointing out ExposureManager's change in policy and therefore tipping this item in Zenfolio's favor.]

Self-Fulfillment. ExposureManager. Both services operate in roughly the same fashion. While ZenFolio is a bit easier to use, the end result is the same. Custom Products and Custom Shipping methods are created and presented for purchase by the customer. ZenFolio gets an extra point for ease of use and for allowing product photos to accompany the items. Another extra point is awarded to ZenFolio for letting their cropping feature (see below) be used during self-fulfillment as well. But ExposureManager gets the gold star on this one for one reason alone. ZenFolio requires the Photographer to bill the customer outside of ZenFolio for Custom Products. ExposureManager handles these aspects as well.

Cropping. ZenFolio. Cropping is not an easy concept for a lot of print purchasers. They think “I want an 8×10″ so they buy an 8×10. They have no idea what that might do to the end result of the image being purchased didn’t happen to already be in 8×10 format. ExposureManager leaves you on your own to sort this out. I’ve opted for printing white borders on every image and requesting an email from the customer before placing an order if something else is needed. Not idea. ZenFolio has an interesting cropping module. It has a decent default and allows the customer to further specify exactly how they would like to see the image cropped. This feature is selectable on an image-to-image basis so the photographer can even turn it off on those images where he feels cropping should not be altered.

Image Quality. Zenfolio. ExposureManager used to use EZPrints. EZPrints isn’t bad, by any means, but, they also aren’t the first choice of photographers in the know who have a choice. ExposureManager doesn’t use EZPrints any longer, but I’m not sure who they are using now. But it isn’t MPix. MPix, is one of the leading online printing houses for photographers. Their quality and service is well known and quite dependable. This is a huge plus in the eyes of photographers still trying to get over the worry of NOT seeing the final product before it ships to their customers. You want someone you can trust. And lots of photographers trust MPix.

Zenfolio offers a free 14 day trial, so you’ve got nothing to lose. Use referral code CVY-6UZ-T5M and we’ll both save $5.

What are your thoughts? Do you use a hosted solution to sell your artwork online? If so, who do you recommend?

10 Comments

  1. Phototouille says:

    One correction about the Commission: Exposure Manager charges 10% on the entire order, while Zenfolio charges 12% on the profits only. In most cases, Zenfolio commission will be lower than EM. Just thought it would be important to take note of that. PT

    1. Jim Reverend says:

      I stand corrected.

      When I first started using ExposureManager a few years ago, they deducted printing costs from the lab filled orders before determining commission. It looks like they changed this policy without my knowing as their website now clearly indicates otherwise.

      I’ll correct the post above.

      Thanks again.

  2. Erin Ashley says:

    Thanks for this really helpful post – it was exactly what I needed to determine if I should use Exposure Manager or Zenfolio. I opted for Zenfolio, just signed up, and used your referral code. Thanks for the discount ;-D

  3. Daniel says:

    Happy to help. This post is almost 1 year old. Now that I've been using it for a year, maybe I should do a re-review. :)

  4. Kenneth says:

    I believe ExposureManager owns their own printing lab now. I've always been impressed with their quality.

  5. Chris says:

    Can one easily migrate their galleries from EM to Zenfolio?

    1. Jim Reverend says:

      I do not know of an easy way to do so. Please let me know if you find one.

  6. Chris says:

    Can one easily migrate their galleries from EM to Zenfolio?

  7. Daniel says:

    I do not know of an easy way to do so. Please let me know if you find one.

  8. John says:

    Nice review, thanks. I have never used EM, seems interesting. I am a big SmugMug fan for selling my photos. Zenfolio and Smug seem pretty close recently. If you want to see the differences between SmugMug and Zenfolio check this out:

    http://www.photosharingreviews.com/reviews/pro/

    Maybe if you ask them they can include EM in the review…

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